Channel 5's Ben Frow: I like to let the commissioners do their job

Channel 5's Ben Frow: I like to let the commissioners do their job

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Credit: @JonCraig_Photos

Channel 5 director of programmes Ben Frow revealed that he is looking for a “game changer of a show” that would pull in an audience of three million at a sell-out Bristol Centre event in late September.

The channel’s commissioning editor Adrian Padmore added: “We have lots of shows doing one million – [we want] to get three million and take the channel forward.”

At the RTS Bristol event – held at the Everyman Cinema and chaired by Plimsoll Productions founder and CEO Grant Mansfield – Frow explored the evolution of Channel 5. “We are working with people now who we would never have worked with five years ago,” he said.

Frow described the channel’s tone as “populist but never ordinary. We are unashamedly mainstream, down to earth, honest and warm.”

Padmore added: “Ben totally understands who’s watching Channel 5 and he has a gut instinct on commissions – there’s a bit of himself in there, which is a bit of the viewer as well.”

The commissioning editor discussed the collaborative nature of the commissioners at Channel 5, warning indies: “Don’t send your idea to all of us, as we sit together and we talk to each other all the time. Find out about each of us first and approach us individually.”

Frow continued: “I like to let the commissioners do their job. We have nine of them and there’s lots of work – hundreds of hours to fill. It’s all very collaborative and we have regular roundtable discussions.

“I always say yes to a meeting – talk to me, use me for advice, don’t show me clips.”

Channel 5 is currently looking for another entertainment show to sit alongside Blind Date, which it revived with Paul O’Grady as host this summer, after an absence from TV of 14 years.

Frow added: “We’re after more returning shows week after week, exciting reputation pieces, stripped programming at 10pm and three-part event pieces.”

Discussing the channel’s history programming, Padmore said: “It needs to be familiar – we need to be doing history that people have heard of.”

A significant proportion of the Channel 5 budget goes to independent producers with a turnover of less than £5m.

“I like underdogs; I love giving people a chance and finding new talent. Plus, I like us to feel special and, if it’s a big project for a small indie, we feel special,” said Frow, who has challenged his team to work with a new regional indie this year.

A recent Pact census showed that indies with a turnover of less than £10m have more opportunities to get projects across the line with the BBC and Channel 5 than the other public service broadcasters.

Frow revealed that he writes only limited “viewing notes” when watching shows: “I only really have two notes – I’m bored or I’m confused and I don’t know what’s going on. It’s the producers job to produce the programme.”

All photography by @JonCraig_Photos

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